Complaints management process
Last updated 19 April 2017
This policy is intended to ensure that we handle complaints fairly, efficiently and effectively. Our complaint management system is intended to:
1.1 enable us to respond to issues raised by people and suppliers making complaints in a timely and cost-effective way
1.2 boost public and supplier confidence in our administrative process, and
1.3 provide information that can be used by us to deliver quality improvements in our products, services, staff and complaint handling.
This policy applies to all staff receiving or managing complaints from the public or suppliers made to or about us, regarding our services, staff and complaint handling. Staff grievances are dealt with through separate mechanisms.
This organisation expects staff at all levels to be committed to fair, effective and efficient complaint handling.
Terms and Definitions
Expression of dissatisfaction made to or about us, our products, services, staff or the handling of a complaint where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected or legally required. A complaint covered by this Policy can be distinguished from:
- staff grievances
- public interest disclosures made by our staff
- code of conduct complaints
- responses to requests for feedback about the standard of our service provision [see the definition of ‘feedback’ below]
- reports of problems or wrongdoing merely intended to bring a problem to our notice with no expectation of a response [see definition of ‘feedback]
- service requests [ see definition of ‘service request’ below], and
- requests for information.
Complaint management system
All policies, procedures, practices, staff, hardware and software used by us in the management of complaints.
An unresolved complaint escalated either within or outside of our organisation.
Opinions, comments and expressions of interest or concern, made directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly, to or about us, about our products, services or complaint handling where a response is not explicitly or implicitly expected or legally required.
A service request could include:
- requests for approval
- requests for action
- routine inquiries about the organisation’s business
- requests for the provision of services and assistance
- reports of failure to comply with laws regulated by the organisation
- requests for explanation of policies, procedures and decisions.
A clear, formal written statement by an individual staff member about another staff member or a work related problem.
A statement of instruction that sets out how we should fulfill our vision, mission and goals.
A statement or instruction that sets out how our policies will be implemented and by whom.
Public interest disclosure
A report about wrong doing made by a public official in New South Wales that meets the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994.
1. Facilitate complaints
1.1 People focus
We are committed to seeking and receiving feedback and complaints about our services, systems, practices, procedures, products and complaint handling.
Any concerns raised in feedback or complaints will be dealt with within a reasonable time frame
1.2 People making complaints will be
- provided with information about our complaint handling process
- provided with multiple and accessible ways to make complaints
- listened to, treated with respect by staff, and actively involved in the complaint process where possible and appropriate, and
- provided with reasons for our decision/s and any options for redress or review.
1.3 No detriment to people making complaints
We will take all reasonable steps to ensure that people making complaints are not adversely affected because a complaint has been made by them or on their behalf.
1.4 Anonymous complaints
We accept anonymous complaints and will carry out an investigation of the issues raised where there is enough information provided.
We will ensure that information about how and where complaints may be made to or about us is well publicised. We will ensure that our systems to manage complaints are easily understood and accessible to everyone, particularly people who may require assistance.
If a person prefers or needs another person or organisation to assist or represent them in the making and/ or resolution of their complaint, we will communicate with them through their representative if this is their wish. Anyone may represent a person wishing to make a complaint with their consent (e.g. advocate, family member, legal or community representative, member of Parliament, another organisation).
1.6 No charge
Complaining to us is free
2. Respond to complaints
2.1 Early resolutions
Where possible, complaints will be resolved at first contact with Data Republic.
We will promptly acknowledge receipt of complaints.
We will assess and prioritise complaints in accordance with the urgency and/or seriousness of the issues raised. If a matter concerns an immediate risk to safety or security the response will be immediate and will be escalated appropriately.
We are committed to managing people’s expectations, and will inform them as soon as possible, of the following:
- the complaints process
- the expected time frames for our actions
- the progress of the complaint and reasons for any delay
- their likely involvement in the process, and
- the possible or likely outcome of their complaint.
2.3 We will advise people as soon as possible when we are unable to deal with any part of their complaint and provide advice about where such issues and/or complaints may be directed (if known and appropriate).
2.4 We will also advise people as soon as possible when we are unable to meet our time frames for responding to their complaint and the reason for our delay.
2.5 Objectivity and fairness
We will address each complaint with integrity and in an equitable, objective and unbiased manner.
We will ensure that the person handling a complaint is different from any staff member whose conduct or service is being complained about.
Conflicts of interests, whether actual or perceived, will be managed responsibly. In particular, internal reviews of how a complaint was managed will be conducted by a person other than the original decision maker.
2.6 Responding flexibly
Our staff are empowered to resolve complaints promptly and with as little formality as possible. We will adopt flexible approaches to service delivery and problem solving to enhance accessibility for people making complaints and/or their representatives.
We will assess each complaint on its merits and involve people making complaints and/or their representative in the process as far as possible.
2.7 Responding flexibly
We will protect the identity of people making complaints where this is practical and appropriate.
Personal information that identifies individuals will only be disclosed or used by the Data Republic as permitted under the relevant privacy laws, secrecy provisions and any relevant confidentiality obligations.
3. Manage the parties to a complaint
3.1 Complaints involving multiple agencies
Where a complaint involves multiple organisations, we will work with the other organisation/s where possible, to ensure that communication with the person making a complaint and/or their representative is clear and coordinated.
Subject to privacy and confidentiality considerations, communication and information sharing between the parties will also be organised to facilitate a timely response to the complaint.
Where a complaint involves multiple areas within our organisation, responsibility for communicating with the person making the complaint and/or their representative will also be coordinated.
3.2 Complaints involving multiple parties
When similar complaints are made by related parties we will try to arrange to communicate with a single representative of the group.
3.3 Empowerment of staff
All staff managing complaints are empowered to implement our complaint management system as relevant to their role and responsibilities.
Staff are encouraged to provide feedback on the effectiveness and efficiency of all aspects of our complaint management system.
3.4 Managing unreasonable conduct by people making complaints
We are committed to being accessible and responsive to all people who approach us with feedback or complaints. At the same time our success depends on:
- our ability to do our work and perform our functions in the most effective and efficient way possible
- the health, safety and security of our staff, and
- our ability to allocate our resources fairly across all the complaints we receive.
When people behave unreasonably in their dealings with us, their conduct can significantly affect the progress and efficiency of our work. As a result, we will take proactive and decisive action to manage any conduct that negatively and unreasonably affects us and will support our staff to do the same in accordance with this policy.
3.5 Complaint management system
When responding to complaints, staff should act in accordance with our complaint handling procedures as well as any other internal documents providing guidance on the management of complaints. Staff should also consider any relevant legislation and/or regulations when responding to complaints and feedback
4. Acknowledgement of complaints
4.1 We will acknowledge receipt of each complaint promptly
4.2 Consideration will be given to the most appropriate medium (e.g. email, letter) for communicating with the person making a complaint.
5. Initial assessment and addressing of complaints
5.1 Initial assessment
After acknowledging receipt of the complaint, we will confirm whether the issue/s raised in the complaint is/are within our control. We will also consider the outcome/s sought by the person making a complaint and, where there is more than one issue raised, determine whether each issue needs to be separately addressed.
When determining how a complaint will be managed, we will consider:
- How serious, complicated or urgent the complaint is
- Whether the complaint raises concerns about people’s health and safety
- How the person making the complaint is being affected
- The risks involved if resolution of the complaint is delayed, and
- Whether a resolution requires the involvement of other organisations.
5.2 Addressing complaints
After assessing the complaint, we will consider how to manage it. To manage a complaint we may:
- Give the person making a complaint information or an explanation
- Gather information from the product, person or area that the complaint is about, or
- Investigate the claims made in the complaint.
We will keep the person making the complaint up to date on our progress, particularly if there are any delays. We will also communicate the outcome of the complaint using the most appropriate medium. Which actions we decide to take will be tailored to each case and take into account any statutory requirements.
6. Providing reasons for decisions
6.1 Following consideration of the complaint and any investigation into the issues raised, we will contact the person making the complaint and advise them:
- the outcome of the complaint and any action we took
- the reason/s for our decision
- the remedy or resolution/s that we have proposed or put in place, and
- any options for review that may be available to the complainant, such as an internal review, external review or appeal.
6.2 If in the course of investigation, we make any adverse findings about a particular individual, we will consider any applicable privacy obligations under the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 and any applicable exemptions in or made pursuant to that Act, before sharing our findings with the person making the complaint.
7. Closing the complaint, record keeping, redress and review
7.1 We will keep comprehensive records about:
- how we managed the complaint
- the outcome/s of the complaint (including whether it or any aspect of it was substantiated, any recommendations made to address problems identified and any decisions made on those recommendations, and
- any outstanding actions that need to be followed up.
7.2 We will ensure that outcomes are properly implemented, monitored and reported to the complaint handling manager and/or senior management.
8. Alternative avenues for dealing with complaints
8.1 We will inform people who make complaints to or about us about any internal or external review options available to them (including any relevant Ombudsman or oversight bodies).
9. The three levels of complaint handling
9.1 We aim to resolve complaints at the first level, the frontline. Wherever possible staff will be adequately equipped to respond to complaints, including being given appropriate authority, training and supervision.
9.2 Where this is not possible, we may decide to escalate the complaint to a more senior officer within Data Republic. This second level of complaint handling will provide for the following internal mechanisms:
- assessment and possible investigation of the complaint and decision/s already made, and/or
- facilitated resolution (where a person not connected with the complaint reviews the matter and attempts to find an outcome acceptable to the relevant parties).
10. Analysis and evaluation of complaints
10.1 We will ensure that complaints are recorded in a systematic way so that information can be easily retrieved for reporting and analysis.
10.2 Regular reports will be run on:
- the number of complaints received
- the outcome of complaints, including matters resolved at the frontline
- issues arising from complaints
- systemic issues identified, and
- the number of requests we receive for internal and/or external review of our complaint handling.
10.3 Regular analysis of these reports will be undertaken to monitor trends, measure the quality of our customer service and make improvements. Both reports and their analysis will be provided to Data Republic’s CEO and senior management for review.
11. Monitoring of the complaint management system
11.1 We will continually monitor our complaint management system to:
- ensure its effectiveness in responding to and resolving complaints, and
- identify and correct deficiencies in the operation of the system.
11.2 Monitoring may include the use of audits, complaint satisfaction surveys and online listening tools and alerts.
12. Monitoring of the complaint management system
12.1 We are committed to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of our complaint management system. To this end, we will:
- support the making and appropriate resolution of complaints
- implement best practices in complaint handling
- recognise and reward exemplary complaint handling by staff
- regularly review the complaints management system and complaint data, and
- implement appropriate system changes arising out of our analysis of complaints data and continual monitoring of the system.
The development of this policy has been informed by the following:
- Australian and New Zealand Standard Guidelines for complaint handling in organizations AS/NZS 10002:2014
- NSW Ombudsman Effective complaint handling guidelines, 2nd Edition, December 2010
- Victorian Ombudsman Councils and complaints – a good practice guide, February 2015
- Joint publication of the NSW Ombudsman and Department of Local Government Complaints Management in Councils Practice note no. 9, revised July 2009
- Ombudsman Western Australia Guidelines on complaint handling, November 2010
- Commonwealth Ombudsman Better Practice Guide to Complaint handling 1, April 2009
- NESTA Grumbles Gripes and Grievances The Role of Complaints in Transforming Public Services, April 2013
- Scottish Public Services Ombudsman SPSO Statement of Complaint handling Principles, 2011
- The British and Irish Ombudsman Association Guide to Principles of good complaint handling, 2007
- NSW Ombudsman Managing Unreasonable Complaint Conduct – a Model Policy and Procedure 2012
- Victorian Ombudsman Good Practice Guide, November 2007
- Disability Services Commissioner Victoria Good Practice Guide and Self Audit Tool, 2nd Ed. 2013.
If you have a question regarding the above, please contact us for assistance.